I happen to enjoy restoring classic cars and I also consider the environment to be important. I also figure that doubling or tripling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has to exert some impact on the climate. Now – this is not a blog about greenhouse gasses and I will not start a discussion or post comments on that topic. I am simply offering my opinion. Greenhouse warming champions and skeptics have plenty of other sites to air their views.
For a starter – any gasoline or diesel car produces pollutants in addition to CO2. I remember the bad old days of California air pollution in the 1970’s – we really have made a huge improvement through air pollution control on autos. I have always kept all the stock air pollution gear on my cars. For an older car that is not much of a hassle. For my Jag, instead of going to Weber carbs or triple SU carbs I have kept the anti-pollution twin Strombergs. I had them rebuilt back to the fine original tolerances and specs in order to decrease pollution – I will talk about that all in a later blog. For my Porsche I have rebuilt the original Bosch fuel injection – which provides super mileage, insanely low CO2 and pollutant production and really decent performance and reliability. My wife’s Alfa Romeo Spider has the full pollution control works including the catalytic converter. It is really clean running. Do we lose some 0-60 performance on our cars? Sure. However, I feel I am being responsible. Hey, you also are not going to have a 100-point car if it is not original anyway!
For you Tesla drivers – or the folks who have converted Porsche 914’s to electric motors that run on arrays of 12 volt batteries – you do not get a free pass in terms of air pollution or greenhouse gasses either. The electricity that is used to charge those batteries has to be produced somehow. In recent years about 50% of electric energy in the United States was produced by burning coal, 15% was produced by burning natural gas and 6% through burning petroleum. In addition, the manufacture and disposal of large batteries or battery arrays comes at an environmental cost.
Pretty much any recreational activity has an environmental impact. If you fly on an eco-vacation to the tropics the engines are producing CO2 at a rate of about 0.5 lbs per mile per passenger on a full flight. Driving to the mountains and lighting a campfire at night similarly contributes to fossil fuel use and greenhouse gasses. So, let’s be honest, it is not just classic cars – any recreational activity has direct environmental impacts that are avoidable if we chose to not do it. I am not about to tell people to stop traveling, stop going to the park and mountains etc. We all need recreation in our lives and different people have different ideas of what that should be. I like fixing old cars – someone else likes climbing mountains and someone else likes sailing. Good enough for me. We can ask however, what is the most responsible way we can go about our hobby or recreational activity?
It struck me that lot’s of folks are buying carbon offsets when they fly places for business and vacation. These offsets typically fund programs like tree-planting or building solar or wind energy plants, or increasing energy efficiency in the developing world. The idea is that you can help pay for something that is environmentally good anyway and helps either suck CO2 out of the atmosphere or decreases the production of more CO2 through development of alternate energy sources or more efficient energy use. I also liked the idea of helping people in less developed countries. Hey, I’m a softy.
Now, here is the problem – how do I choose a good organization to supply these offsets and how do I calculate what my classic cars might produce in terms of CO2? I have done some research and found out there are lots of organizations out there that sell carbon offsets. Some of them are for profit and some are non-profits. If possible like to support non-profits in general because I hate to think my offset dollars are simply going to pad the bonuses of people on Wall Street and in the City in London. However, there have also been plenty of incidents through time when non-profits have not been particularly efficient or honest in the use of your money. What to do???
I found that there are lots of sites online that provide information on carbon offset providers and their structure and operations. I also found that many of these providers have calculators that are easy to use and based on your car and the miles driven per-year will calculate carbon production and offset amounts. Now, in some cases you have to pick a more modern car with similar fuel consumption to your old classic and kind of fudge the calculator. For example, I have a 1959 Triumph TR3 and that era car does not tend to turn up as a choice on the online calculators! I used our 1986 Alfa as a calculation point for our cars. Given the low number of miles we drive these things the offset was surprisingly cheap – about $20 for 2 tons offset. I was able to choose how my offset would be accomplished – I chose forest replanting. It gets better – if you choose a tax-free outfit the cost is tax-deductible. Finally, I got a emailed a pdf of a very nice certificate. You can buy your annual offset online with a couple of clicks.
I am not going to say which organization I went with in terms of purchasing offsets. I am just going to provide some websites that offer information on a collection of organizations that offer carbon offsets. Check out these links and then look at some of the organizations that offer automobile offsets. You will find it is pretty inexpensive to offset your classic car’s carbon output – and hopefully if you pick the right offset organization you are doing something good for the planet and the people on it. In any case – we are showing that as a community the classic car crowd is as responsible and caring of our environment and anyone else.
My carbon offset certificate looks pretty good up on the wall of the garage!
Good hunting –
SITES TO EXPLORE IF YOU WANT TO LEARN ABOUT AND BUY CARBON OFFSETS FOR YOUR CLASSIC CAR